Thursday, July 27, 2017

Restaurant Review: Nabe and Night at the Museum

Nabe - dinner on July 20, 2017
I’m almost caught up with my round-the-world eating spree. Left Milan, went back to work, reviewed the Mexican restaurant next door and now we head back up to San Francisco. One night after work, our auditors took most of the team out to dinner (an annual thing) at a restaurant in San Francisco called Nabe. I’d never heard of it before but that means nothing since there are so many great restaurants in the city and I haven’t been to even a tiny fraction of them.
Nabe was a small enough restaurant that they hired out the whole place for a couple of hours that night and could seat the 40 or so of us who went, albeit just barely. There were 2 and 4-toppers as well as a long table in the center of the room that could accommodate 16-20 people (I didn’t count). I sat at a 4-topper with 3 of my coworkers and at each place was a burner. Because Nabe was a hot pot restaurant. If you’ve never been to one, you’re missing out.
The premise is you order what broth you wanted as well as what proteins, veggies and noodles (as extras) that didn’t already come with your original order. They bring it out in a soup pot, set it on the burner, turn on the burner, bring your proteins and vegetables and you cook your dinner once your chosen broth was sufficiently hot enough.
Each person could order their own “set” and Nabe’s recommendation is for a maximum of 2 people to share one set. What they mean by “set” is half a hot pot. For efficiency’s sake, if you wanted a different order or broth than the person across from you who was sharing your burner and therefore the same pot, they had a divider in the pot so you could each enjoy your half of the pot without commingling your set.

Tako Su Octopus Salad
At my table of four, we started with the Tako Su Octopus Salad with cucumber and vinaigrette and Tofu with Kimchee. Plain eater here passed on those. But I did partake of and enjoy the Kurobuta Pork Sausage (delicious) and the Gyoza filled with Kurobuta pork (also good).
Kurobuta Pork Sausage

Tofu with Kimchee

But the main event was the hot pot set. I ordered the Sukiyaki which was Wagyu beef and shirataki in Warishita broth. I don’t know what all that was but it sounded good.  My coworker, Eileen, who sat across from me and shared the same pot and burner got a miso broth so we had the pot with a divider. Super cool and super convenient for me because my Sukiyaki with its “Warishita broth” came with a bunch of veggies in it. Um, okay. My head knows that’s what helps make the broth so tasty but it would’ve gone to waste with me if Eileen hadn’t been a veggie lover and very accommodating in my tossing most of my vegetables over our hot pot divider into her broth. 

Miso broth on the bottom half of the divided hot pot set

They also brought out a separate plate of vegetables for those who ordered the miso broth since miso broth came out plain without any veggies already added. Once our hot pot began bubbling, I started adding the thin slices of Wagyu beef. I don’t do hot pot often so I wasn’t sure of the “right” way to do it but I figure there’s no wrong way since it was my hot pot and my dinner. My broth already came with udon noodles in it but you can also order more noodles. They offered a bowl of rice which I took them up on, the better to enjoy the super-freaking-delicious broth. Everything was good but for the broth alone, I’d go back again and I’m telling everyone I know they should go to Nabe and order it. 

Normally with hot pot or even a really good ramen place, I like the broth initially but as it keeps cooking and you eat your way through the bowl (or pot), it tends to get more and more salty so I tend to only eat/drink/slurp it at the beginning. Not so at Nabe. The broth was amazing from beginning to end. Even after I had cooked all my proteins (we ordered scallops as an add-in), I couldn’t seem to stop eating/drinking the broth. I wasn’t even hungry anymore but I still wanted the broth. Did I mention it was super-freaking-delicious broth? Because it was.
Fortunately, since the hot pot was, you know, hot, I couldn’t actually pick it up and slurp the broth straight out of it so I eventually did back off because I was getting full. But not so full that I didn’t have dessert. There were only three desserts on the menu and I chose the one that seemed most palatable to me: butter mochi cake with either black sesame ice cream or green tea ice cream.
Butter Mochi Cake with Black Sesame ice cream
Here’s a not-so-secret quirk of mine: I don’t have very Asian taste buds. Doesn’t matter that I’m Asian. I still don’t like many traditional Asian flavors. I don’t care for mango, ube, jackfruit (my Filipino ancestors would cringe at me), lychees, guava, passionfruit, dragonfruit, green tea or, as it turned out, black sesame. At least not in ice cream. I ordered my butter mochi cake to come with black sesame ice cream, thinking I would at least try it. Which I did. Turns out I don’t like black sesame ice cream either. I don’t mind sesame flavor in savory foods and occasionally cook with sesame oil and sesame seeds. But I didn’t care for the flavor in ice cream. My Asian companions who shared the dessert with me thought the ice cream was delicious so okay, yeah, it’s just me.

I did better with the butter mochi cake. Mochi has a chewy, spongy texture and the cake was better than the one I’d tried to makefrom scratch some time ago; it wasn’t as sweet as mine was and had better flavor and texture. My non-Asian taste buds would’ve liked it with vanilla ice cream instead of black sesame or green tea but that’s neither here nor there.

Me with a few of my coworkers in front of the California Academy of Sciences
After dinner, our evening outing included A Night at the Museum at the California Academy of Sciences which wasn’t too from Nabe. The place was quite busy for a Thursday night but it turns out the Night at the Museum only occurred every Thursday and rumor in the crowd said it was a “good date night” so that might explain some of the activity. We didn’t have a set agenda other than to wander around aimlessly, chatting amongst ourselves and queueing up at the bar. I don’t drink so I stuck to the wandering around aimlessly and chatting part. 

I only took a few pictures as some of the more interesting exhibits didn’t have good lighting for cell phone pictures (most of mine turned out too dark). The jellyfish were the prettiest ones to me, as long as they were in their tank with the changing lights to show off their translucence.
All in all, a fun evening and outing. Big thumbs up for Nabe as well and thank you to Deloitte, our auditors.

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